I had some great conversations, virtually and in person, with several people after my last blog post went up about the confusion in the new-agey world of self-development around the feeling of “ease” equating with “rightness.” And it made me realize that, for many people, their “rightness” meter reads more like “if it’s HARD it must be right.” Like, if I have to work for it, if it challenges me, if it doesn’t come easy, then it must be the right thing for me. If it’s hard, it makes me grow. If it’s difficult, I transform.
This mode of operating is most familiar to me since it’s been my approach for many years. As I reflect back, I believe it was an aspect of my personal psychology that was reinforced by vigorous, physically challenging yoga practices. Initially drawn to this type of practice because I was athletic and liked a good challenge, I continued because I believed that in order to create change, to transform (in body and mind), I needed to “advance” and the only way to do that was to complete the next harder thing. It was a very linear way of doing that could only progress into more and more challenging postures. Perfect! Sign me up!
As I learned more (through years of teacher trainings, workshops, and reading yogic texts), I layered on more thoughts that reinforced the belief that hard = right. The practices I did were all forms of Hatha Yoga - “Hatha” meaning forceful. By practicing postures and specific breathing techniques, we’re literally attempting to “force” the experience the state of Yoga. The Sanskrit word “tapas” (one of the Niyamas) is often translated as perseverance, a fiery self-discipline that is intended to burn off whatever is keeping us from experiencing the state of Yoga. Again, if it’s hard, it must be right!
So, I went on my way, navigating through many things in life with this mindset. And in many ways, I can see now that if it wasn’t hard enough I unconsciously made it harder (more on that another day...). This continued until I began the process of undoing, seeing my habitual thoughts and actions, noticing how incredibly hard I was making life, not the other way around. For me, this process began (and continues) through meditation and thought work (by way of coaching) - which really began when I discovered that NO amount of efforting or “hard work” could get me through the most difficult times in my life.
Skip ahead many years and my whole approach to life (yoga practice included) has been informed by my thought work and meditation practice. So, now my “tapas” looks a little different. Though it still requires a certain level of self-discipline and perseverance to show up and practice, it comes from a place of neutrally listening to myself and responding to what I need at any given moment, not from a “how can I make this hard” place. Instead of over-efforting, I work to see where I can soften and allow the space to expand. In that space, I have a greater sense of what feels right. And that’s where the feeling of rightness comes in…
So, again, what does rightness feel like? To me, right feels aligned. Right feels connected. Right feels energized. Right also feels hard sometimes. It can feel effortful. It can feel challenging. But all of that is tempered with a sense of inner ease, spacious, and openness. It never was a matter of easy vs. hard, after all. It was just a matter of right.
If you tend toward this mode of operating, begin to question yourself… In what ways are you creating unnecessary challenge in your life? How are you making things hard than they are or need to be? And why? Be curious. Dig under the impulse toward challenge or difficulty and see if you can find something else that points towards right.